First things first: your dog must have a good quality food to do a good job in the field. If they are working hard in the field, the right mix is 30% protein and 20% fat. You will need to use less protein and fat if they are an occasional hunter. Watch their weight, too fat of a dog will not be able to make an all day hunt, same with an under weight dog. Your dog is like an athlete; they have to eat correctly in order to perform. Take a good quality snack for them in the middle of the day, and a lot of fresh water. Make sure they are on a worm, flea and tick program, check with your vet for the correct medication.
Pre-season conditioning is paramount. “Roading” your dog in a harness is a great way to get your dog and you in shape for the hunting season. Roading is a general term for harnessing your dog, walking them slowly, and allowing them to pull against you to build strength and stamina. 30 minutes of pulling is worth one hour of running. When taking your dog out for a run, throw bumpers, or any type of exercise to help build his stamina. The better shape your dog is in, the longer he will hunt. During the hunt, give him short water breaks. Wet down his belly and pads to help cool him off if it is a warm day. Always watch for over-heating early in the year and hypothermia in the cold weather.
Pre-season training is vital to success in the field. Go over “whoa, sit, stay, come,” and general handling. Never use an E-Collar to teach a dog anything, use only to reinforce what has already been taught. Be patient, kind and don’t leave any fingerprints. Older seasoned dogs need conditioning more than bird work, younger dogs need more bird work. If you are starting a young dog, make sure that he has been shot over before you go hunting.
Socializing your pup is extremely important for both pointers and flushers. Make sure you expose the pup to different areas, sounds and smells, be careful of loud noises. A well socialized pup makes for a well-rounded hunting companion.
With Pointing dogs, “whoa” breaking is the most important command to teach. If you get this done your job will be 90% complete, whatever method you choose, make sure you start the command in the yard. Your yard work needs to be started in advance, not the day of the hunt. Do not rush through your yard work, it is a very important step in the training process.
With Flushing dogs “sit” and ranging commands are the most important. Same as the pointers, the training needs to be started in advance before the day you take them hunting. Prove your training by taking them to different areas for different distractions.
Be prepared for cuts and injuries. Issues like porcupine quills, and other life-threatening injuries may occur while hunting your dog. Take a first aid kit like the ReadyDog K-9 First Aid Kit and a Leatherman, be ready to help your hunting companion in the field.
Watch your dog’s body language. This can tell you a lot about what is going on with your hunting companion. The better health your companion is in the better hunt you will have. We wish you a prosperous season!